January 10, 2024

Caring for Aging Parents

Caring for Aging Parents: Monitoring Their Health

As our loved ones age, it becomes increasingly important to ensure they enjoy a high quality of life. While the secret to aging gracefully lies in adopting a healthy lifestyle, it’s never too late to start making positive changes. One of the key aspects of maintaining your aging parents’ health is by visiting their healthcare provider regularly and ensuring they undergo regular health screenings.

The National Institute on Aging emphasizes the significance of these routine check-ups and screenings in supporting healthy aging, as they can uncover underlying diseases and conditions, such as diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular issues ¹. This article delves into the most common lab tests and diagnostic screenings that are used to support healthy aging.

Common Lab Tests for Aging Parents

Thyroid Hormone Panel: Conditions like hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism can significantly impact metabolism and mood. This panel measures the levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) in the blood. Abnormal levels of TSH may indicate thyroid issues. A thyroid hormone panel may also include measurements of FT4 (free thyroxine), which helps diagnose more specific thyroid conditions like Hashimoto’s disease or Graves’ disease.

Lipid Panel: For a healthy heart, it’s essential to monitor cholesterol and triglyceride levels. High levels of these lipids in the blood can indicate a risk of heart disease, narrowed arteries, heart attacks, or strokes. This panel can also help detect conditions like metabolic syndrome, pancreatitis, and diabetes.

Diabetes Profile: This comprehensive blood test provides a snapshot of blood glucose levels over a two-to-three-month period. It assesses the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar through insulin. Elevated blood glucose levels can be indicative of diabetes or prediabetes.

Comprehensive Metabolic Panel: This panel evaluates metabolism by examining how the body processes food and manages waste. It consists of 14 different tests that assess kidney and liver health, fluid balance, electrolytes, and blood sugar. It’s an effective way to diagnose medical conditions and monitor the body’s response to medications.

Complete Blood Count: This test counts and evaluates the different cells in the blood, which can reveal signs of infection, anemia, or leukemia. It’s often used to gauge overall health and can be an essential tool for monitoring aging parents’ health conditions and treatments.

Diagnostic Tests for Specific Conditions

In addition to general health panels, your aging parents’ healthcare provider might recommend tests to diagnose or monitor specific conditions.

  • Arthritis Profile: Arthritis can cause joint pain and negatively impact quality of life. Different types of arthritis require specific treatments. An arthritis profile can help diagnose conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disorder that causes chronic inflammation, joint pain, and swelling.
  • Hepatitis C Test: Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver, and the hepatitis C virus can lead to chronic hepatitis, cirrhosis, or cancer. The hepatitis C test helps assess exposure to this virus, which can go undetected for years, especially in older adults.
  • Anemia Screening: Anemia, a condition characterized by insufficient healthy red blood cells, can lead to fatigue, weakness, dizziness, and an elevated heart rate. Lab tests, including vitamin B12, ferritin, and hemoglobin measurements, can help diagnose anemia and its underlying causes.

Using these common tests and diagnostic screenings, your aging parents’ healthcare provider can diagnose, monitor, or assess the risk of specific medical conditions. Identifying health issues is the first step in providing appropriate care.

The Importance of Preventative Care

Lab tests are a crucial aspect of healthy aging, but they are not the only piece of the puzzle. Encouraging your aging parents to adopt a healthy lifestyle is equally important. Promote physical activity and a balanced diet to support their physical health. Additionally, emphasize the significance of managing stress, engaging in social activities, and avoiding detrimental habits like smoking and excessive alcohol consumption to boost their mental and emotional well-being. These lifestyle choices contribute to healthy aging.

It’s vital to ensure that your aging parents receive routine check-ups and diagnostic tests to monitor their health effectively. HNL Lab Medicine’s Patient Service Centers (PSCs) offer a convenient and comfortable option for getting regular bloodwork done. The key to a long and healthy life is making informed choices and taking preventative measures today. Remember, as the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion advises, healthy living is the path to healthy aging ². Regardless of where your aging parents are on their journey, making positive lifestyle choices can significantly improve their health and set the stage for a future of quality aging.


¹ National Institutes on Aging. (2022, February 23). What do we know about healthy aging? National Institutes of Health. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-do-we-know-about-healthy-aging.
² Reed, P. (2021, September 3). Health and well-being matter: Healthy living is healthy aging. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. https://health.gov/news/202109/health-and-well-being-matter-healthy-living-healthy-aging.